The attorneys general of 41 U.S. states are banding together to investigate the makers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers that have led to a spike in opiate addictions and overdose deaths. The coalition issued subpoenas seeking information from opioid manufacturers Endo International, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan, and additional subpoenas to Purdue Pharma, NPR reports. The group is demanding documents from distribution companies AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. “Our subpoenas and letters seek to uncover whether or not there was deception involved, if manufacturers misled doctors and patients about the efficacy and addictive power of these drugs,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The industry already faces dozens of lawsuits by cities, counties and states, including Ohio, Missouri and Oklahoma. Some are trying to recoup the costs incurred from the surge in emergency responses to opioid-related overdoses. The strategy is reminiscent of the litigation by states and municipalities three decades ago against tobacco companies. The opioid drug industry expanded in the 1990s in response to the medical community’s push to better treat pain and chronic pain. Millions of opioid users became addicted to opioids or heroin after being prescribed the medication by doctors. Many doctors said they were assured by the drugmakers that the opioids were less addictive or even not addictive.